April 12, 2013
Flying Fingers, Fine Wine at Wolf Creek
Back in the day, when there were no flashing strobes or neon lights at nightclubs, there was often a mirror right above the piano player so listeners could see the flying fingers at work.
Mike Cross remembered it and decided to add his own twist. "This is the 21st century," Big Bear’s masterful "Piano Man" said. "I thought, why not do it electronically?"
So for the new Wine Room at Wolf Creek Resort, where he is the entertainment director and plays each weekend, Cross had a video camera installed just to the left of the keyboard on his baby grand piano. As he plays everything from jazz standards to "Route 66" and "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina" his dancing fingers are displayed on a big screen color television just above where the whole room can see them, a new age solution to an age old tradition.
Everything is top shelf in the Wine Room, where fine wines are served amidst rustic mountain lodge decor elegance. Relax in plush chairs and sofas or at your own table next to the fireplace and enjoy fine wines, gourmet beers, perfectly paired meats and cheeses, even luscious chocolate-dipped strawberries.
The refrigerated walk-in wine room is impressive, sporting hundreds of chilled bottles of wines of exceptional vintage. There are also many red, white and sparkling wines to enjoy by the glass.
For beer drinkers the Wine Room offers a vast selection of unique offerings in addition to standard domestics and imports. Like Paulaner Octoberfest, smooth and rich, and Long Coast Great White and Belhaven Scottish ale. Plus offerings from Bitburger, Fuller and many others. Not to mention the house’s own signature label Stone Summit selections.
Around the room there are hand-drawn murals depicting outdoor mountain scenes, and there’s beautiful stone floorwork and dramatic lighting. Not bad for a room that started off as a laundry before owner Dave Stone realized it would make the perfect wine room he had dreamed of building. Out back there’s a patio that looks out onto the wooden grounds plus vineyards that next year will produce Big Bear grapes that will be turned into the Valley’s own wine.
The April entertainment schedule is full featuring Cross by himself or on occasion as part of his Real Jazz Trio featuring Steve Boggio on drums and actor Mark Cade on string bass.
Also set to join in is fiery saxophonist John Bolivar on April 13-14. Cellist Peggy Baldwin, who played with Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne as part of his "Zoom" project and has worked with Stevie Wonder, Yani and Henry Mancini to name but a few, accompanies Cross on April 26. Plus local talents like renowned vocalist Nancy Walker, a cabaret singer from the South Bay who has performed at the White House, and Serena Saunders often join in on weekends as well.
The Wine Room is open Thursday from 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon-10 p.m. and Sunday noon-6 p.m.
Wolf Creek Resort is at 41421 Big Bear Blvd. Call (909) 709-2890.
April 10, 2013
Dancers `Breaking the Silence' at PAC
Enjoy fast-flying feet when Dancers Anonymous presents its first spring show "Breaking the Silence" at the Performing Arts Center on April 12-13.
Some 75 dancers ages 2-1/2 to 30 perform in the show, held at 6 p.m. on Friday with 3 p.m. Saturday matinee. A variety of dance genres are on tap including jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern, character, point, lyrical, tiny tops, fundamentals, competition and more. Approximately 70 numbers will be performed.
The program is directed and choreographed by Cortney Seifert Warmsley, recently named Ruby Award recipient 2013 by Soroptimist of Big Bear. United States Airman Marcus Warmsley taught hip hop on selected weekends and will be performing with his students. Ingrid Olsen accompanies live on piano.
Dancers Anonymous will also be recognized four talented student dancers of the year including Emily King from 2008 and Bailee Bock from 2009. Other dancers include Delanie Brunet from 2010 and current 2013 honoree Hannah Renick.
Tickets are $10 and available at Parks and Recreation Dept. (41220 Park Ave., Big Bear Lake, 909-866-9700) or at the PAC (909-866-4970).
April 8, 2013
Field's Last Role Out of Character, Except it's Twain
Exposing the biggest scam and cover-up the world has ever known doesn’t seem like the kind of send-off a guy whose career has been mostly music and dancing, who once garnered a New York Outer Critics Circle Award for "Best Musical Revue," would want.
There’s not a song to be heard during Community Arts Theater Society (CATS) presentation of Mark Twain and the Shakespeare Mystery during seven April shows at its Warehouse Theater (story page 8). Ironic but not surprising that in Robin Field’s last show for CATS, an original he wrote, he didn’t pen himself a single song or step.
Then again, the idea that William Shakespeare did not—in fact could not— have written his own plays was postulated by Twain, who Field has had a fascination with since he was a kid. Playing a lifelong idol who in his later years began to suspect that someone else besides The Bard had written all those great plays, come to think of it, just might be the perfect way for Field, who turns 66 in April, to go out.
After all, Field has an estimated 400-500 books by and about the great writer in a room in his cozy mountain home dedicated to Twain. Many of those volumes and the other memorabilia will be used on stage in Shakespeare Mystery, like the working handcrank phone, appropriate because Twain was one of the first private citizens to possess a telephone.
The next phase of his life leads down the mountain for Field, who has had a home in Big Bear for decades but really began to live here a few years ago when he started performing for CATS. Field may have made a living performing for 20 years in New York City, including headlining a sold-out Carnegie Hall, but the spring in his step was most pronounced on the Big Bear stage, as Harold Hill in The Music Man and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady.
April 4, 2013
Weekly Baldwin Lake Preserve Walks Start April 6
Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve opens for the season on April 6 and there’s a guided wildflower hike organized by Southern California botanists at 11:30 a.m.
Join San Bernardino National Forest botanist volunteers on a guided Wildflower Walk through unique Pebble Plain terrain. Botanists identify some of the unique species that grow here and nowhere else in the world. The walk is a loop and is free; bring your own lunch and water and wear hiking boots. Parking and restrooms are available.
"During the season there should be loads of wildflowers on the Pebble Plain," botanist Tommy Stoughton said. "It may not be as showy as this time last year, depending on weather, but we’ll try to identify two different blooms. Parish’s rock crest are blooming already. `Shooting Stars’ should be in peak bloom at the time of this walk."
Each subsequent Saturday at 11:30 a.m. additional guided wildflower walks will be led by SOCAL Botanists in the reserve through June 29. Best viewing is in April and May as colors are in full bloom and temperatures are still relatively cool.
At Big Bear Discovery Center, free Nature Walks continue Saturdays at 1 and 2 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. and noon. Each 30-minute, non-strenuous adventure explores Discovery Center’s forest grounds as naturalists point out local flora and fauna plus local history.
Call Big Bear Discovery Center at (909) 866-3437.
April 3, 2013
Field Stars in Twain, Shakespeare Mystery
Who really wrote William Shakespeare’s classic plays and poems?
That’s the question Community Arts Theater Society (CATS) poses during Mark Twain and the Shakespeare Mystery starring Robin Field at CATS Warehouse Theater in April. The original one-man, one act show is presented at 7:30 p.m. April 5-6, 10 and 12-13 with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees April 7 and 14.
Field, who has portrayed Twain on stage before, has adapted the famous author’s 1909 book "Is Shakespeare Dead?" into his original show asking the same question Twain proposed: who really wrote The Bard’s plays and poems? Twain was one of the first celebrities to doubt that it was the Stratford actor and over a hundred years later, evidence is mounting that he was correct.
"Playing Twain on stage is a joy, especially when he gets on such an angry, funny rant, as he does in this work," Field, who has recorded many of Twain’s classic works as audio books, said. "Writing his autobiography near the end of his life, Twain devoted several chapters to this issue. Then he decided to publish them as a separate book. This information has never been presented on stage before.
Other "celebrities" who have shared Twain’s doubts include Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James, psychologist Sigmund Freud, actors Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Gielgud and Derek Jacobi." But, as Field said, "Twain knew none of this new evidence. So my script presents only what Twain wrote in 1909.
"Twain didn’t know the 17th Earl of Oxford ( Edward deVere) is the likeliest candidate (to have written Shakespeare’s plays)," Field added. "My script says only that Shakespeare couldn’t have done it."
Why? "Shakespeare was a goofus actor with no education," Field said. "Even in his hometown he wasn’t considered a celebrity. All we know of him was published 20 years after his death. There are no manuscripts in his handwriting. His will left no plays to his family."
The Earl by contrast was known to be a talented performer behind palace walls, where it was considered acceptable for royalty to act but never in public. As part of Queen Elizabeth’s court he was privy to indiscretions like adultery, murder and family squabbles said to have taken place in the palace, which just happen to be what The Bard’s plays were about.
"He had the royal court experience that the actor didn’t," Field said. "And he had reason to hide his identity; as a nobleman of the Court it was beneath nobility to be in theater. But the audience doesn’t have to know anything about Twain or Shakespeare to enjoy the show. It’s a great introduction to these two literary figures."
The one-act play, suitable for the whole family, runs about 90 minutes, and is guaranteed to make you laugh and leave you wondering: Was Twain right?
Tickets for all shows are $15 and advanced purchase is recommended since open seating is limited. CATS Warehouse Theater is at 1117 W. Big Bear Blvd. in Big Bear City.
Call (909) 585-4757.
April 2, 2013
Inch-High Color Show in Baldwin Lake Preserve
At first glance there’s nothing to suggest there’s anything special about this rugged, barren terrain. In fact the area for the most part lacks vibrant color, save for shades of clay soil and an endless expanse of blue sky horizon. The only thing that breaks up the stark horizon is nearby Baldwin Lake, the Valley’s naturally occurring body of water that again has water lapping at its shores.
It’s only upon closer inspection that the uniqueness that is the Baldwin Lake Ecological Preserve comes to life. There’s color here, beautiful shades of yellow and red and purple, if you’re willing to look closely for it. There’s history too—some 150 years ago this area was the epicenter of Southern California’s largest gold rush. Perhaps most significantly, there’s life here, no less than ten different floral species that exist here and nowhere else on the planet.
A self-guided interpretive trail and visitor center explores Baldwin Lake Ecological Habitat via a short loop that visits 11 marked posts. Developed by the Forest Service in conjunction with Fish and Game, the loop is short, just over a half-mile in length, and it presents a healthy dose of rare habitat and history.
Pick up a free copy of the guide at the trailhead, located along Hwy. 18 in Baldwin Lake just west of Holcomb Valley Rd., or at the adjacent Ecological Reserve, open Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 6-June 29 and staffed by volunteers in a partnership between San Bernardino National Forest Association and Fish and Game Dept.
The terrain is rocky so good footwear is recommended, and there is a touch of elevation gain, but the trail is very well marked and easy to follow as it winds along old fire roads and even wagon trails from yesteryear. History abounds, starting at the building marking the trailhead—it once was known as the "Horse House," a synonym for house of ill repute activities that reportedly went on here decades ago.
As the trail winds through open sagebrush habitat overlooking Baldwin Lake—there’s water in it this year—visitors learn about the flora and fauna that call this area home. Deer, coyotes, mountain lions, a variety of small mammals, birds and reptiles live in this harsh terrain, where the sun’s rays are intense—bring your sunscreen—yet winters are harsh. Three types of jays—pinyon, Steller’s and scrub—are found in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The trail’s highlight comes at posts #7 and #8, as it visits Pebble Plain (related story page 16). Scattered patches of rocky clay soil are in fact some of the planet’s most unique terrain, believe to be created during the Pleistocene periods 10,000 years ago when glaciers covered much of the area. Pebble Plain is so unique, it has been compared to coral reefs with as many as 20 species in a square meter.
Big Bear’s unique climate, particularly in spring—freezing nights, warm days—causes pebbles to literally push to the soil surface. It’s a habitat only the most hardy can survive in, like "belly plants" only an inch high, best viewed by lying down. Douglas’ violets (actually yellow), Parish’s rock cress, Bear Valley sandwart and others are mostly unique to this area. It’s among the highest concentrations of rare plants in North America!
Belly plants contrast nicely with colorful displays that aren’t particularly unique, like red Indian paint brush, orange California poppies, and even purple lupine that smells like grape soda. Artifacts from the mining era are mixed in with more recent items that are purely trash...please leave the area exactly as you found it.
Stop #10 marks western juniper, best identified by red stringy bark, scaly green leaves, and small light purple berries. These slow-growing trees are hardy and enduring...some in the forest are believed to date over 2,000 years!
If this short loop isn’t enough hiking for you, continue east on Hwy. 18 another quarter-mile to Holcomb Valley Rd. and turn left. Just before the refuse station at the end of the road is the famed 2,638 mile Pacific Crest Trail...the section on the left offers great hiking past Doble trail camp, while the southern section on the right sports panoramic desert views.
Big Bear Discovery Center is at (909) 866-3437.
March 26, 2013
Neff Beach Bash, Ashbury Demo close Big Bear season
As usual the snow is lasting longer than the customer count, where almost every run at the two resorts is still open even as April arrives. Should be a great spring on the slopes—spread the sunscreen, catch rays on the decks, enjoy the sounds, and get the last turns in before summer on lots of spring snow.
Bear’s three halfpipes are open including Southern California’s only Superpipe plus the standard and mini pipes. There’s some 51 jibs and 42 snow features spread out all around the mountain, with favorites like pyramid boxes, rails in all shapes and sizes and much more...and let’s not forget the incredible jump line down The Park Run that catapults riders into the air.
Snow Summit meanwhile has still more features on Westridge, Ego Trip and the itty bitty hitties in the Family Park runs like Cruiser and Sundown. In all the resort that’s not Big Bear’s park specialist sports 29 jibs and 25 snow features on Westridge and Ego Trip plus still more snow features in the Family Fun Park.
The resorts have a few events left on the calendars too...
Neff Beach Bash
A huge $3,000 cash purse—winner takes all—is on the line during the Neff Beach Bash on Saturday, March 30 in The Scene at Bear Mountain.
The beach-theme rail jam also has prizes for Best Outfit plus the Grom Award for under age 16 riders is a one-year Neff sponsorship. Neff team riders will be on hand to judge the competition and the first 125 to sign up get a free Neff beanie.
Tons of swag make for a great end-of-season party with Red Bull, Wahoo’s and Snowboarder Magazine on site. Guest MC is Riff Raff while DJs Matty My and Slipp Matt keep the party going.
Registration at 10 a.m. is free for those with a lift ticket or season pass and the event gets underway at noon. Competitors get free eats from Wahoo’ Fish Tacos.
Easter Egg Hunt
The bunny has stashed eggs out on the snow on runs at both resorts. Can you find them on Easter Sunday, March 31?
Successful sleuths will score great prizes by finding eggs hidden on the runs. Participants must be on skis or snowboard with a valid lift pass.
Snowboarder Magazine "The Launch"
While it’s not officially a public event, it’s going to be hard to not notice the aerial assault put on by top riders at Bear Mountain April 1-5. Insane jumps and features will assure plenty of air for photographers shooting for next season’s editions.
The final discount days for those bearing police, fire, EMT or military ID is April 3-4. Present the appropriate identification at either resort and ski or ride all day for just $38!
Ashbury Snowboard Demo
Top Ashbury team riders and invited guests will put on a show at Bear during this low-key event on Saturday, April 6.
There’s no competition, just sick riding by some of the sport’s best. Participating riders include Joe Sexton, Jon Kooley, Jed Anderson, Nima Jalali, Jorden Mendenhall and many others.
Stepchild snowboards and 32 boots will be on hand with free demos—just provide ID and credit card for deposit. DJ, giveaways and team signings also are happening.
Call the resorts at (909) 866-5766.
March 19, 2013
2 seasons, 1 pass a `Screamin' Deal' at Big Bear Resorts
With the prices of just about everything going sky high, Big Bear Mountain Resorts has kept its "Screamin’ Deal" season pass prices down to Earth.
Those ready to buy next season’s pass now will find prices have stayed the same at the Big Bear resorts for the 2013-14 season. And the good news is that next year’s pass will be valid this season when they go on sale on March 11, plenty of time left to put it to good use during the season’s final months. Plus purchase your season pass before April 1 and get a free "Tag Along" buddy ticket valid rest of this season.
Indeed season passes are the ultimate discount and the best way to enjoy Southern California’s two best resorts. Just $279 buys a Screamin’ Deal midweek pass valid Monday through Friday (non-holiday) at both resorts. Spend an extra $70 and get six days a week at both resorts (non-holiday) with Midweek Plus passes valid Sundays too for $349 ($279 young adults ages 13-21). Since passes are valid for Snow Summit night sessions—including holidays—Midweek Plus passes are almost anytime passes in themselves since they’re good Saturday night too.
Those who want access to both resorts and their combined four high speed quads, 26 chairlifts and 55-plus runs whenever they are open—holidays, weekends, nights, you name it—should opt for anytime passes, still just $559, $459 for young adults. Night lovers might want $149 passes, though these are not valid for summer Skychair rides.
Bear Mountain-only passes are also available, with Midweek Plus Sundays just $319 ($249 for young adults). Anytime Bear Mountain passes are $429 and $359 respectively. So pick your pass but hurry; these Screamin’ Deal prices are only good through May 31, when they go up before reaching their zenith in fall.
"There’s a lot of pressure on budgets with the economy," said the resort’s Chris Riddle. "We wanted to make anytime passes more affordable. Many guests will pay for a majority of next year’s pass this season, even all of it."
The season should be lengthy with three-plus feet of February snow and might be epic if the storm pattern continues. Make next year’s pass pay for itself with this year’s skiing and riding. Some passes pay for themselves in as few as five visits, making next year bonus time.
There’s nothing quite like having a season pass—instant access straight to the slopes with no waiting at a ticket window is only the beginning. The prestige of being a preferred customer continues with the lift operators, who often refer to you by name, and around the resorts as well, with a variety of discounts ranging from 20% off at the sport shops and for ski and snowboard lessons to 10% off food and beverage purchases (excluding alcohol).
Plus all season passes are good for night sessions at Snow Summit, along with free Scenic Skychair rides to the top of the mountain this summer. There guests enjoy Southern California’s sky high barbecue, horseshoes, hiking and panoramic views that stretch from the lake to 11,502 ft. Mt. San Gorgonio. With the resort’s plans for expanded mountain bike operations including trails on its permit area for riding, passes are not valid for mountain biking.
So when you’re standing at a ticket window in after March 11 ready to plunk down good money for a lift ticket, remember this: a few bucks more buys a pass good that day, the rest of this season, this summer and all of next winter! Guests can even apply that day’s ticket price to next year’s pass before they go home.
At most resorts paying for skiing months in advance is a risky proposition because snow can always be a question mark. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain have proven that with two of the largest snowmaking systems around and unlimited water supply, they’ll offer real snow real close, guaranteed.
Call Big Bear Mountain Resorts at (909) 866-5766.